SELF Challenge 2010 Month One

Welcome to month one of SELF’s get-fit-forever plan. Visit the links below to find fat-blasting routines and diet tips. Ready? The blueprint for your best body ever is right here.

Burn Calories

This month’s goal: Do three 20- to 30-minute cardio workouts per week

Ready to start the Challenge on the right foot? Your cardio assignment for this month is to pick an activity that gets your heart pumping—an aerobics class, Spinning, running, hiking, inline skating, boxing or stair-climbing—and do it three times a week. (Because walking is great for beginners and you can do it anywhere, we’ve included a sample plan for inspiration.) Another Month One goal: Learn to gauge how hard you’re working (so you don’t slack off or overdo it in these critical first weeks). “Each workout should be tough, but never so hard that you’re in excruciating misery,” says Skip Gagnon, an exercise physiologist at the Wyndham Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colorado. “The idea is to be well within your target heart-rate zone, or about 60 to 70 percent of your maximum aerobic capacity.” Aim for the high side if you want to build endurance.

To find your estimated target heart-rate zone, first calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. (For example, if you’re 35: 220-35 = 185.) Next, find the zone by multiplying your maximum heart rate by 0.60, and again by 0.70. (For example, if your max heart rate is 185: 185 x 0.60 = 111 and 185 x 0.70 = 130. When you work out, your heart should beat between 111 and 130 times per minute. That’s your target zone.) You can check your heart rate while exercising by counting your pulse for 10 seconds and multiplying by six. Or buy a heart-rate monitor to keep track for you ($60; polarusa.com). SELF asked Gagnon for a sample cardio workout (see below) that can pulverize calories, shrink your waistline and build endurance, so that in a few weeks, you won’t be huffing and puffing your way through life. Try it (or do your regular cardio routine) throughout the month. You can raise your heart rate by increasing your speed or incline or wearing a weighted backpack during a workout.

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What happens if I get sick and miss some cardio workouts? Answer: First, get better! Then pick up where you left off. Yes, you can check off the days on your log sheet and continue on to the next week, but you’re on the honor system to make up workouts during the month.

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